Taking Stock

Taking Stock

There’s a problem with measuring your year in twelfths.

It works for expenses like rent, which is the same each month. But it doesn’t work for insurance which sits at 0% of budget until the month it’s due and then zooms all the way to 100%. Or printing, which seems to oscillate over and under budget depending on newsletter and appeal deadlines.


Fundraiser’s Almanac – May


Yet somehow the anomalies are easier to accept on the expense side. They’re harder on the income side. Every year someone challenges the fundraisers and accountants about why we haven’t raised a third of our income by the end of April. And it doesn’t curb the annual nail-biting rituals in mid-December when we have done everything we possibly can except trust that the mail will deliver again this year like it has every other year.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t take stock at various points during the year, and May is a good time to look back and see how you’re doing. So what would we look for in May?

  • How much has the Board given? Has every Board member committed something? These could be pledges or outright gifts. Did you set a Board goal? Was it met? Is there anything you can do now to affect the outcome? (See Board Campaign Mechanics for more information on Board campaigns.)
  • Have you identified your major gift prospects for special communication over the summer? Are you getting to know them (with or without Board member support)? Do you have cultivation plans for each one? Do you have ask amounts assigned? These could be membership renewal (or annual gift) asks or capital (major gift) asks either way. Is there something to which you could invite them over the course of the summer? Could you target a special release of information during the summer? Regardless, What’s the Next Step? Who’s going to do it? And by when? (See Working with a Top 100 List in 2015.)
  • Are you communicating well with your members/donors? Is the newsletter going out on time? E-News? Special communications just for donors? Any feedback? (See Just Go Cultivate the Donors!)
  • How’s your renewal rate so far this year? Are you getting 70%? Would another reminder letter help? It’s not too late, and renewing them, even now, is easier than replacing them. (See Print the First Renewal Letters Now.)
  • How did your Spring Appeal do? Did you meet your income goal? Stay under budget? (Check out this blog next week for tips on a second letter.)
  • How many new people have given money so far this year? Are you on track? Need to spend more time on recruitment? (See Writing Appeal and Recruitment Letters.)
  • How about your fall events? Are the sponsors signing up as expected? Need to get more aggressive with new sponsors? (See Donor Event Planning.)
  • And finally: Are you on track to meet your income goals? If you can, go back five years and calculate the percentage of your year-end income that you had realized by the end of April. How does this year compare?


Assume that you are not there a year from now – not anywhere around, in fact. Write your replacement a letter explaining where you are after four months this year. Talk about what your priorities were and how they may have changed over time. Be analytical and reflective, but most of all, be candid. Talk about what you learned and what you might have done differently in hindsight. Talk also about what you’re most proud of, and where your efforts may have been brilliant. If you aren’t there a year from now, your reflections will help whoever is. If you are there, it will provide you an important baseline from which to measure your progress.


What are you measuring as we turn the corner from Spring to Summer?


Photo credit: Walt Kaesler.

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